Category: monumental early 20th century architecture

Architectural walking tours of Washington,D.C.

Bill Lebovich, former National Park Service historian, architectural historian and photographer, and former adjunct college faculty member, gives weekday and weekend tours of Lafayette Square, Embassy Row, Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, historic downtown and museums, and custom tours.

To schedule a tour, get additional information, reviews, DSCN2867.jpgor ask questions, email me at or call (301) 467-2831.

The remnants of McKim,Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station, Manhattan

Finished in 1910 and surviving until 1963, Penn Station was Classical Revival architecture at its most monumental and expressive, designed by the leading Classical Revival firm.

The eagle sculpture from the building survives at a commuter stop on the  Long Island Railroad.

A sad commentary on the state of railroads and civic pride in this country 50 years ago.IMG_1857.jpgIMG_1853.jpgIMG_1854.jpg

Two Historic and Grand Hotels

The current building for the Willard Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave.,N.W., 2 blocks east of the White House, dates from 1901 and it was designed by the prominent NYC architect,Henry HardenberghIMG_2413.jpgIMG_2401.jpgIMG_2393.jpgIMG_1418.jpgIMG_1416.jpg.  But earlier,more modest versions of the hotel date to the early 19th century.

With its mansard roof, formal lobby,and grand corridor (“Peacock Alley”) running nearly a block to a secondary entrance on F St.,the hotel evokes Parisian architecture and planning.

On another major avenue, Connecticut Ave, in 1925, the Mayflower Hotel was built, and while its lacks French architectural detailing, it also has a grand promenade running from its lobby to a rear entrance. This hotel also has a formal lobby and is an entire block in depth.  (It differs from the Willard in that the rear section of the Mayflower was originally apartments.)

The Mayflower was designed by the same architects who were responsible for New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Warren & Wetmore.

Other surviving hotels (seen in next posting),built only a few years later, do not occupy entire blocks and, therefore, lack the promenades that define the interiors and to a large degree, how these two hotels are perceived by guests and visitors.

First three photos:Willard   last two photos:Mayflower   (c)Bill Lebovich,2016

Early Modern Architecture in New York City

UN Buildings 10UN Buildings 4_DxOVP UN Buildings 6 UN Buildings 9 UN Buildings 10 UN Buildings 15In the late 1940s with construction completed in the early 1950s, the United Nations core buildings are cutting edge modernism predating Lever Brothers Building and Seagrams Building.  But these two buildings get much more play in the architectural history books than the United Nations.  Maybe it is because the UN Buildings were the result of a contentious international collaboration.  Wallace Harrison  was the chief of design, and his firm Harrison and Abramovitz did one of the later buildings.  But LeCorbusieur and Neimeyer are generally credited as designers of the major building, the slab office building.  Yet the other architects apparently wanted to limit LeCorbu’s influence and visibility.  A more interesting designer than Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps LeCorbu had too much ego and brilliance and the others wanted to knock him a peg.  And Neimeyer was seen as too much a follower of LeCorbu.

Regardless, the slab and the assembly hall with curved top are a highly successful symbol of the New York skyline and of the UN.  It was edgy when built and it remains edgy.